Lesson 4: Applying Construction to Insects and Arachnids
7:52 PM, Sunday January 22nd 2023
Thanks in advance for your review!
Hello AmenX, I'll be handling your lesson 4 critique.
Starting with your organic forms it is clear that you are working towards sticking to the characteristics of simple sausages that are introduced here, and your second page is stronger than your first.
You're also doing better at varying the degree of your contour curves in the second page. On the first page you were mostly relying on flipping their direction rather than actually making the curves wider and narrower. Keep in mind that the degree of your contour lines should be shifting wider as we slide along the sausage form, moving farther away from the viewer. This is also influenced by the way in which the sausages themselves turn in space, but farther = wider is a good rule of thumb to follow. If you're unsure as to why that is, review the Lesson 1 ellipses video.
When we place an ellipse on the end of a sausage form, it's actually no different from the usual contour curves, aside from the fact that we're conveying the fact that this particular end is facing the viewer, allowing us to see the whole way around the contour line, rather than just a partial curve. I noticed on some of your forms you'd placed them on ends which the preceding contour lines suggest are pointing away from the viewer. I've marked on your work where you'd drawn an ellipse on an end facing away from the viewer. Take a look at this breakdown of the different ways in which our contour lines can change the way in which the sausage is perceived - note how the contour curves and the ellipses are always consistent, giving the same impression of which ends are facing towards the viewer and which are facing away.
Moving on to your insect constructions these are coming along well. You've done a good job of starting with simple solid forms and building your constructions piece by piece. You're keeping your lines smooth confident and purposeful, and demonstrating a developing understanding of how the forms you draw exist in 3D space.
I do have some points that should help you get more out of these constructional exercises in the future.
The first of these relates to differentiating between the actions we can take when interacting with a construction, which fall into two groups:
1 Actions in 2D space, where we're just putting lines down on a page, without necessarily considering the specific nature of the relationships between the forms they're meant to represent and the forms that already exist in the scene.
2 Actions in 3D space, where we're actually thinking about how each form we draw exists in 3D space, and how it relates to the existing 3D structures already present. We draw them in a manner that actually respects the 3D nature of what's already there, and even reinforces it.
Because we're drawing on a flat piece of paper, we have a lot of freedom to make whatever marks we choose, but many of those marks would contradict the illusion you're trying to create and remind the viewer that they're just looking at a series of lines on a flat piece of paper. In order to avoid this and stick only to the marks that reinforce the illusion we're creating, we can force ourselves to adhere to certain rules as we build up our constructions. Rules that respect the solidity of our construction.
For example - once you've put a form down on the page, do not attempt to alter its silhouette. Its silhouette is just a shape on the page which represents the form we're drawing, but its connection to that form is entirely based on its current shape. If you change that shape, you won't alter the form it represents - you'll just break the connection, leaving yourself with a flat shape. We can see this most easily in this example of what happens when we cut back into the silhouette of a form.
For example, I've marked on your grasshopper in red where you cut back inside the silhouette of forms you had already drawn. Sometimes I think you accidentally cut inside forms you have already drawn where there is a gap between passes on your ellipses. There is a way we can work with a loose ellipse and still build a solid construction. What you need to do if there is a gap between passes of your ellipse is to use the outer line as the foundation for your construction. Treat the outermost perimeter as though it is the silhouette's edge - doesn't matter if that particular line tucks back in and another one goes on to define that outermost perimeter - as long as we treat that outer perimeter as the silhouette's edge, all of the loose additional lines remain contained within the silhouette rather than existing as stray lines to undermine the 3D illusion. This diagram shows which lines to use on a loose ellipse.
On the same grasshopper I marked in blue where you'd extended off existing forms using partial, flat shapes, not quite providing enough information for us to understand how they actually connect to the existing structure in 3D space.
Instead, when we want to build on our construction or alter something we add new 3D forms to the existing structure. Forms with their own complete silhouettes - and by establishing how those forms either connect or relate to what's already present in our 3D scene. We can do this either by defining the intersection between them with contour lines (like in lesson 2's form intersections exercise), or by wrapping the silhouette of the new form around the existing structure as shown here.
This is all part of understanding that everything we draw is 3D, and therefore needs to be treated as such in order for both you and the viewer to believe in that lie.
You can see this in practice in this beetle horn demo, as well as in this ant head demo You can also see some good examples of this in the lobster and shrimp demos on the informal demos page As Uncomfortable has been pushing this concept more recently, it hasn't been fully integrated into the lesson material yet (it will be when the overhaul reaches Lesson 4).
The next thing I wanted to talk about is leg construction. It looks like you tried out lots of different strategies for constructing legs. It's not uncommon for students to be aware of the sausage method as introduced here, but to decide that the legs they're looking at don't actually seem to look like a chain of sausages, so they use some other strategy.
The key to keep in mind here is that the sausage method is not about capturing the legs precisely as they are - it is about laying in a base structure or armature that captures both the solidity and the gestural flow of a limb in equal measure, where the majority of other techniques lean too far to one side, either looking solid and stiff or gestural but flat. Once in place, we can then build on top of this base structure with more additional forms as shown in these examples here, here, and in this ant leg demo and also here on this dog leg demo as this method should be used throughout lesson 5 too.
I think you may have had the sausage method in mind for some of your constructions, although the method is quite precise. Keep in mind:
Stick to simple sausage forms for your base armature, as closely as you can. Further complexity can be added with more forms once you have the sausages in place. draw through and complete these forms, no partial shapes, as these will undermine the 3D illusion of your construction.
The forms need to overlap on the page, so that you can connect them together in 3D space by using a contour curve for the intersection at each joint. I've highlighted these contour curves in red on this copy of the sausage method diagram to make it as clear as I can.
When it comes to adding texture and detail, try to apply the instructions that are introduced in this section of lesson 2 throughout the course. You may see some contradictions to this guidance incidentally in some of the older demos that were made before the most recent revamp of the texture section of the course. In particular, keep in mind that we're aiming to use cast shadows to imply the smaller forms that run along an object's surface. We're telling the viewer how it might feel to run their hand along the object. This has nothing to do with what colour that surface happens to be, so for these constructions we can ignore changes in local colour such as the markings on this construction. Furthermore, please refrain from filling large areas with solid black, as this obscures your underlying construction, making it harder to asses your work. These reminders for texture are a good section to review, at minimum.
Lastly, I didn't see this much, but there are places on this construction where it looks like you might have sketched in pencil and then erased the pencil lines afterwards. If these are just random marks showing through from the other side of the paper, please excuse my mistake. If you are drawing in pencil first I recommend you read this article where Uncomfortable explains why you'll get the most out of this course if you stick to using ink.
Okay, I get the impression that you're more than capable of applying this advice to your work as you move forward, so I'll mark this lesson as complete. be sure to actively tackle these points as you handle your animals. It's not uncommon for students to acknowledge these points here, but forget about them once they move on, resulting in them being repeated it in the next critique (which we certainly want to avoid). If anything said to you here is unclear or confusing you are welcome to ask questions.
I really appreciate your critique Dio, thank you for taking the time to mark my homework and providing useful links. You gave me a lot of good info to keep in mind, I'll turn back to this review as I work on Lesson 5. Cheers & happy drawing